72 hours. Two down-to-the-wire finishes against quality opponents. Two wins.
NOW Marquette basketball has finally arrived.
Marquette picked up its second quality non-conference victory in three days after senior forward Jae Crowder buried a three-pointer with 6.3 seconds left for the 79-77 victory.
Here are some thoughts and reaction from Tuesday night’s win at Madison Square Garden.
Chris Otule has to be OK, he just has to be. One could make a strong argument that no one on Marquette’s current roster has worked harder than Otule the past two years. It would be devastating if the redshirt junior’s season was over after he suffered a non-contact knee injury in the first minute of Tuesday night’s game. Right now the training staff is calling the injury a sprain, but it didn’t look good. After two separate foot injuries cost him basically two seasons, this would be awful for Otule and, less important, the Marquette interior defense.
For as bad as he was against Wisconsin and in the first half tonight, Jae Crowderput on a show down the stretch against the Huskies. Marquette needed scoring in the worst possible way from someone other than Darius Johnson-Odom, and Crowder provided it. He scored 15 of his 18 points in the final 13:41 and hit the biggest shot since Jimmy Butler’s baseline floater against Connecticut two years ago, sealing the victory and keeping Marquette undefeated.
Marquette continues to get to the free throw line at an extraordinary pace. Tonight it made 27 trips compared to Washington’s 10, which proved to be a major difference in the game. Marquette was in the bonus midway through the second half, while Washington shot just two free throws the final five minutes of the game.
He has played just eight games, but Todd Mayo can no longer be considered a surprise when he plays well. He filled the box score again tonight, going for 11 points, five rebounds, four assists and a block and a steal in 21 minutes. It’s to the point where fans should be looking for Mayo to have the ball in his hands offensively. Both of his assists on breakaways to Jae Crowder and Vander Blue were good, fluid decisions on his end. And his defense is just as good. Mayo is a star in the making, and it could happen as soon as this season.
Junior Cadougan put up a stinker, and Marquette needed him to play well. He finished with six assists and just one turnover, but his defense was less than stellar against a Washington team that took advantage of him whenever possible. Derrick Wilson has been a great spell defensively, but Cadougan needs to improve. The offense takes a noticeable hit when he’s out, even if the back court is Mayo/Blue/Johnson-Odom.
If Otule is forced to miss extended time, it could be a very long stretch for Marquette on the glass. Washington came into tonight’s contest fourth in the country in rebounding, but it was able to grab 18 offensive rebounds and out-rebounded Marquette 41-28 in the game. Jamil Wilson, Crowder and Davante Gardner will have their work cut out for them, or else Marquette will have to crash guards on the glass and suffer in transition.
If Marquette needs a glue guy, it looks like Jamil Wilson could be the answer. The redshirt sophomore forward came alive Tuesday night, doing a little bit of everything for the Golden Eagles. He guarded 7-footer Aziz N’Diaye at times, made a 3-pointer, got to the free throw line twice and grabbed four rebounds in 29 minutes. If Otule misses extended time, it will be Wilson who gets the call to step up defensively. Tonight he proved he can do it. His alley-oop dunk from Darius Johnson-Odom was a thing of beauty.
Vander Blue had one of the best dunks in recent memory for a Marquette player, but remember it started with his defense. He intercepted an Abdul Gaddy pass and seconds later turned him into a poster. It was a super-athletic play that showed just what he’s capable of doing. He made a few out of control plays, including the next trip down the court following the dunk, but the progression is noticeable. Blue is still the third best player on Marquette.
Credit Buzz Williams for not calling timeout after Washington’s go-ahead basket with 15.6 seconds left. Not only was it a smart coaching move, keeping Washington from setting up defensively, but it also showed that Williams has faith in his players to make the right play under pressure. The same Buzz Williams two years ago may not have made the same decision. Buzz is growing as a coach, and the players are responding with plays like we saw tonight.
Finally, what more can you say about Darius Johnson-Odom? No one has been able to stop him all year and he is scoring from all different parts of the court. On the break, pull-up jumpers, 3-pointers, dribble-drives. You name it, DJO has done it. It was the same Tuesday night, as DJO was unstoppable. He also went to the free throw line 11 times, making nine of them. He shook off a slow start and was the answer offensively whenever Marquette needed a basket. Get used to the latter part of that previous sentence. You’ll hear it all year.